Helen works with the Plant Health and Gardening Advice teams maintaining more than 1,000 online advice profiles, answering member’s gardening questions and conducting research into garden biodiversity.
She joined the RHS as a trainee in 1998, straight from horticultural training, and became a permanent member of the Advisory team in 2001.
What do you do?
I’m researching garden biodiversity and how the plants we grow affect garden invertebrates – the unsung heroes of a well-functioning ecosystem and the foundation of many food webs. Changes to invertebrate populations can have a huge impact on local environments and improving our knowledge of how our choices affect them will help us care for the wildlife that relies on us.
I’ve always felt passionately that science needs communicating well to gardeners and take huge pride from my role with the Advisory team – advising RHS members through the RHS Gardening Advice Service and improving online advice, accessible to all.
“My interest in science really started as a Horticultural Advisor at the RHS. I was increasingly curious about wildlife in gardens. What species do we share our gardens with? What plants do they use? Do the actions of gardeners make a difference to their fortunes and how can that be quantified?
Over the years I’ve realised that more and more gardeners are starting to care about the impact they have on the environment and I’m excited to help grow this awareness and improve our gardens for wildlife.”
I am spokesperson for RHS' Plants for Bugs study which researched how the geographical origin of plants affects invertebrate abundance and diversity. I support the RHS Plants for Pollinators initiative which produces lists of the best plants for providing nectar and pollen to pollinating insects and I raise awareness of the importance of gardens and gardeners in our fight to protect UK wildlife through the Wild about Gardens Campaign.
Why is your research important?
Gardeners and gardens are of huge importance to the environment and biodiversity. What can seem like small changes to us can actually have a large impact on our neighbourhood and the wildlife it supports. The work I am involved in helps give gardeners confidence to choose the best plants for pollinating insects, or make decisions about whether to plant native or non-native plants to maximise their space for invertebrates.
- Soil biology derived ecosystem services through organic material applications (PhD Supervisor)